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Current Topic: Computers

Comcast Domain Helper Opt-Out
Topic: Computers 11:04 pm EDT, Aug  6, 2009

Recently, Comcast has added a "Domain Helper" to its DNS servers. Now, instead of implementing the DNS protocol as specified in the RFC, Comcast will redirect your query to a Comcast-branded Yahoo! search page, using the text of your DNS query as search input to Yahoo. Never mind that this breaks the Internet ... there are ads to be served!

This service is reminiscent of Verisign's SiteFinder service from ~2003, about which much hubbub is preserved in the MemeStreams archive. (See below.)

Comcast customers can opt out of Domain Helper:

When a non-existent web address is typed into a browser, a built-in error message is displayed. The Comcast's Domain Helper service is designed to help guide you to a useful search page that has a list of recommended sites that come close to matching the original web address that did not exist.

If you are a residential or commercial cable modem subscriber, and you wish to opt-out of the Comcast Domain Helper service, please complete the form below.

At the end of this process they inform you that it may take two days for the opt-out procedure to be completed. Meanwhile, enjoy the broken DNS!

From the archive, a small selection on SiteFinder:

VeriSign has dropped all its lawsuits against internet overseeing organization ICANN, agreed to hand over ownership of the root zone, and in return been awarded control of all dotcoms until 2012.

The Omniture server sets a cookie so that people can be watched over time to see what typos they are making.

The dispute over who controls key portions of the Internet's address system erupted into open conflict today when VeriSign Inc., the world's largest addressing company, sued the Internet's most visible regulatory body, charging that it has been unfairly prevented from developing new services for Internet users.

We all rely on them [DNS servers], and their management should be done in a way appropriate for their status.

Omniture is now tracking hits to every nonexistent .com/.net domain thanks to Verisign.

Comcast Domain Helper Opt-Out

Software Engineering ≠ Computer Science
Topic: Computers 10:57 am EDT, Jun  7, 2009

Chuck Connell:

A few years ago, I studied algorithms and complexity. The field is wonderfully clean, with each concept clearly defined, and each result building on earlier proofs.

Now I work on software engineering, and this area is maddeningly slippery.

While new machine architectures are cool, the real limiting challenge in computer science is the problem of creating software.

Software engineering has an essential human component.

Sometimes these people tell us the right information, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes people lie, perhaps for good reasons. Sometimes people are honestly trying to convey correct information but are unable to do so.

This observation leads to Connell's Thesis:

Software engineering will never be a rigorous discipline with proven results, because it involves human activity.

Michael Lopp, on his book Managing Humans:

This book isn't just about management, it's about creating places where people can comfortably build stuff.

I.M. Pei:

Building doesn't mean success. Building ... three or four masterpieces [is] more important than fifty or sixty buildings. ... Quality, not quantity.

Christopher Alexander:

There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.

The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person ... It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

Paul Graham:

I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I'd only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They're like different animals.

Software Engineering ≠ Computer Science

Topic: Computers 9:03 pm EST, Dec 11, 2007

Quagmire is an emulation of an impossible 8bit processor, where all memory is addressed in 2 dimensions, and is represented by pixel value. Program execution threads can run up, down, left or right. Sections of code are visible in memory, as are the processes as they run. Unlike a normal computer the internal process of the machine is visible. Programs are drawings.

In this system, crashes can be viewed as they occur, processes can write all over each other, or themselves. Lost threads of execution wander through memory, running any data they meander over.

Read while you listen:

Nine Inch Nails: The Art of Self Destruction (Part Two)


ACM Names 38 Fellows for Computing and IT Innovations
Topic: Computers 11:03 pm EST, Dec  4, 2007

Ed Felten is now an ACM Fellow.

ACM has recognized 38 of its members for their contributions to computing technology that have brought advances in the way people live and work throughout the world. The 2007 ACM Fellows, from the world’s leading universities, industries, and research labs, created innovations in a range of computing disciplines that affect theory and practice, education and entertainment, industry and commerce.

"These men and women are the inventors of technology that impacts our society in profound and tangible ways every day," said ACM President Stuart Feldman. "They have pushed the boundaries of their respective computing disciplines to create remarkable achievements that have the potential to make our world more accessible, more secure, and more advanced. Their selection as 2007 ACM Fellows offers us an opportunity to recognize their dedicated leadership in this dynamic field, and to honor their contributions to solving complex problems, expanding the impact of technology, and advancing the quality of life for people everywhere."

Edward W. Felten, Princeton University
For contributions to security and the public policy of information technology

ACM Names 38 Fellows for Computing and IT Innovations

Google Toolbar v2 for Firefox fans
Topic: Computers 7:23 am EDT, Apr 13, 2006

Today, we're happy to release the beta version of Google Toolbar 2 for Firefox.

This new release includes feed integration with the Google Personalized Homepage and a number of other feed readers. We've made searching better by including previous queries, spelling corrections, and suggestions for popular choices. Gmail fans might appreciate having the mailto: links in Firefox open a compose window in Gmail -– no more copying and pasting email addresses. And to combat the ever-increasing threat of phishing, we've integrated the Safe Browsing extension into Toolbar to alert you when a page is trying to steal sensitive information.

Google Toolbar v2 for Firefox fans

Camino - Mozilla power, Mac style.
Topic: Computers 8:41 am EST, Feb 26, 2006

Sure, you can use a typical web browser, with typical features. Or you can use a browser that “also” supports the Mac. Or you can use a browser you have to pay for. What if there was one that offered everything, for free?

That browser is Camino.

Is anyone using this?

Camino - Mozilla power, Mac style.

Not Far From The Tree | This American Life
Topic: Computers 11:33 pm EST, Mar 22, 2005

You've seen this before. Now you can hear the rest of the story.

This is a RealAudio stream from March 11, episode 284.

Act Two. Not Far From The Tree.

Amy O'Leary tells the story of a software writer at Apple Computer whose job contract ends, but refuses to go away. He continues to show up at work every day, sneaking in the front door, hiding out in empty offices, and putting in long hours on a project the company cancelled. There were no meetings, no office politics, no managers interfering with his work. Soon, he had written a perfect piece of software. His final problem is figuring out how to secretly install it in Apple's new computers without anyone noticing. (12 minutes)

Act Two begins at 20 minutes into the broadcast.

Not Far From The Tree | This American Life

Gran Turismo 4 - First Drive - Motor Trend
Topic: Computers 2:57 am EST, Feb 26, 2005

We got it, we played it, we love it.

I have to agree. There is an awful lot to play with here.

If you have a GT3 saved game on your memory card, I highly recommend using it to jump-start your GT4 experience. You can transfer 100,000 credits and buy a much better car than you'd have been able to get otherwise.

The only sour note is the music, which I've seen others complain about, too. They should have been able to do at least as well as Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately the soundtrack seems quite forgettable. But it's no big deal to me, since I generally disable the music while I'm driving/racing, anyway, so that I can hear the engine, the road (and my tires), and the other cars.

Gran Turismo 4 - First Drive - Motor Trend

Matt Groening Apple Ad
Topic: Computers 8:02 pm EST, Jan 26, 2005

This is an ad for the Macintosh around 1989.

k wrote:
] Kind of a neat blast from the past.
] Sometimes we forget that there was a time when "Copy" and "Paste" were brand new concepts.

Matt Groening Apple Ad

Chip Makers' Competing Creeds, by John Markoff - March 11, 1994
Topic: Computers 5:13 pm EST, Dec 25, 2004

After six months of grueling unpaid labor, Greg couldn't explain to his parents what he had done. They didn't use computers, and the only periodical they read was the New York Times. So as the project was winding down, I asked Greg if he wanted his photo in the Times so his parents would know what he was up to. He gave the only possible response: "Yeah, right." We made a bet for dinner at Le Mouton Noir, a fine French restaurant in Saratoga. To be honest, I expected to lose, but I made a phone call. Greg doesn't bet against me any more: On March 11, 1994, the front page of the Times business section contained an article on the alliance among Apple, IBM, and Motorola, picturing Greg and me in my front yard with a view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It begins:

RISC or CISC? This seemingly esoteric computer industry debate, on which every techie will opine, has boiled over into a theological dispute that has turned Silicon into a Valley divided.

In the article, Markoff describes Wired as "the digital world's theological arbiter", which said that PowerPC is "the light side of the force."

An Intel manager said, "If this is a religious war, we've already won."

The photo caption read: "Crusaders for the Power PC Macintosh include Ron Avitzur, foreground, an independent programmer in Los Altos Hills, Calif., who, with Greg Robbins and Steve Newman, rear, has written a new kind of calculator software that will be included with the new Macintoshes."

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